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Obama signs executive order prohibiting federal contractors from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity

Today President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity

"Today President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  Significantly, the president's order does not include any new religious exemptions.  While many media outlets have announced this news as protections for gay workers, it's important to note that transgender and bisexual workers are also included in this order.  President Obama's action will protect approximately 28 million employees in 24,000 companies that hold federal contracts.

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ReconcilingWorks Celebrates the Life and Ministry of Bishop Emeritus Stanley E. Olson

Bishop Olson

ReconcilingWorks celebrates the life and ministry of Bishop Emeritus Stanley E. Olson, former bishop of the Pacific Southwest Synod of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), one of the predecessor churches merged into the ELCA. Bishop Olson died on July 2, 2014, in Sacramento, California, at 87 years old. 

Ordained in 1952, Bishop Olson’s ministry was marked by his commitment to social justice -- civil rights in the 1960s and an early champion of full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Lutheran church. 

“Bishop Olson spoke out for full inclusion and the rights of LGBT people when that was not a popular thing to do. Preaching at the first national convening of Lutherans Concerned in 1980, he continued his public witness for a church that lives up to the promise of Christ – that all are welcome," Aubrey Thonvold, ReconcilingWorks Interim Executive Director said.

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Conversations at Corner

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Imagine running into your neighbor on the street corner and striking up a conversation, trading stories and learning what’s happening in your community. That’s how we envision Conversations at the Corner: pastors, ministry workers, Churchwide staff and activists gathering to learn about ministries of LGBT welcome in multiracial congregations and to dream about ways we all can strengthen and spread this welcome.

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Happy Pride

Happy Pride

Dear Friends,

As June is racing to a close, so concludes a month filled with LGBT PRIDE all over the country. ReconcilingWorks has received many wonderful stories of how Reconciling Lutherans across the country are showing their support and PRIDE in their LGBT community! We are so excited by the work you are doing in the world!

PRIDE month is also a time for giving. The end of June also brings the end of the fiscal year for ReconcilingWorks. As I write this letter, we are $112,000 from the goal we set for ourselves last year. I am asking you to help us close this gap, through a special PRIDE season gift.

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June 22 is Refugee Sunday | LGBT Refugees Share Their Stories

June 22, 2014 is Refugee Sunday declared by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) for their 75th anniversary.

LGBT individuals are fleeing Russia, Uganda, and countless other countries. On June 22, 2014 we encourage all RIC settings to take a moment and pray for LGBT people whose lives are in danger and who are seeking asylum.

Immigration Equality released a short film sharing success stories from their LGBT Asylum Program, which represents over 400 individuals from all over the world.

LGBT Asylum Program

Alexander Kargaltsev, a photographer and graduate of Russia’s top film academy, spent his childhood in Moscow.

Alexander Kargaltsev

He experienced first hand the country’s homophobic environment. 

Free to kill

When he began to fear for his own safety, he finally made the decision to leave.

Decision to leave

He was granted asylum on May 5th, 2011.

granted asylum

Victor Mukasa is a human rights defender living in Baltimore, MD.

Victor Mukasa

In his home country of Uganda, the issue of sexual orientation is just beginning to be understood.

religious community

His own religious community attempted to convert him from his transgender sexual identity.

pastor came for me

Along with other activists, he co-founded Uganda’s top LGBT rights group.

co-founder

He was granted asylum on June 27th, 2013.

granted asylum

Damaris Rostran, a social worker and community organizer, came to the United States from Nicaragua.

Damaris Rostran

She kept her sexual orientation a secret to everyone but her own grandmother, who urged her to leave. 

Stay or leave?

Having lost a friend herself, she knew what could possibly happen if she was open about her sexuality.

killed my friend

Damaris was granted asylum on May 8th, 2013. She now lives with her partner in New Jersey.

granted asylum

Watch the entire film:

Photo essay by Sarah Karlan | Buzzfeed
Video by Immigration Equality

Other Resources

Leadership Changes at ReconcilingWorks

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June 5, 2014

Dear Members, Supporters and Friends of ReconcilingWorks:

Grace, blessings and peace be with you! As Co-chairs of the Board of ReconcilingWorks, we write to bring you news of changes in our leadership staffing.

As you may know, our Executive Director, Emily Eastwood, has been dealing with continuing serious health issues over the last year. In late April, Emily and the executive committee concluded a medical leave of absence would be necessary for her to be able to undergo aggressive treatment in hopes of fully regaining her health. As we’ve named it, the time is needed “to get well, not just better.” Her leave will continue for about six months.

In the short run, Pr. Anita Hill, Regional Director for Region 3, is serving as Acting Executive Director.

Aubrey Thonvold

Aubrey Thonvold
Interim Executive Director

And as you might expect, we have been in an active search for an Interim Executive Director to fill in until Emily returns. We are pleased to tell you that we have just hired Ms. Aubrey Thonvold to serve in that role. A lifelong Lutheran originally from Willmar, Minnesota, Aubrey has most recently been the faith coordinator for the successful Marriage Equality Campaign in Oregon.

She has also done faith based organizing around marriage in Hawaii and Washington. A graduate of Trinity Lutheran College and the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry, Aubrey will relocate to St. Paul and begin her work June 17. Her wife, Heather, will join her in the fall, after she completes a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education in Portland. You can read more about Aubrey here.

We are thrilled that Aubrey has agreed to provide leadership and work with us in this time. We give thanks to God for raising up such a passionate, visionary leader with great energy and commitment. And we give thanks for ears and a heart to hear God’s call. According to Emily Eastwood, “Aubrey is an excellent choice for Interim Executive Director. She is bright, talented, genuinely caring, and full of positive energy with a proven track record. She has my full support in her new role.”

We know that at the moment, the office is missing two full-time employees – Emily and Tim Fisher, who is also on medical leave, being treated for cancer. On behalf of the entire board and staff, we thank you for your patience as we have shifted work, responsibilities and decision-making around during this time. Many of you know Emily personally and care for her. We are praying for her health and strength and invite your prayers as well. Her treatment is underway. Emily and her spouse, Jan Bailey, appreciate the ways in which the ReconcilingWorks community has continued to care for them. Cards and letters may be sent to ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation 1669 Arcade Street N Suite 2, Saint Paul, MN 55106.

As we mentioned, Tim Fisher, Legislative/Communications Assistant, is continuing his medical leave. He has responded well to chemotherapy treatments, which will continue through July. He is in good spirits and is leaving the house to attend church and socialize when he feels strong enough. We ask for your prayers for Tim as well.

Know that our work across the country continues. Our new resource for conversations around same-gender marriage: “Your People Shall Be My People” has just been released. Give Out Day was a wonderful success, raising more than $14,000 in 24 hours, and garnering an additional $6,000 in prize money for being the top performing organization in Minnesota. We are actively planning our summer “Conversations at the Corner” summit around issues of welcome of LGBT people of color. Our international work with the Eastern European Summer School is on tap for August. We are almost through the ELCA Synod Assembly season. Our own 2015 ReconcilingWorks Assembly will be here before we know it.

While we are mindful of our colleagues who are battling illness, we know that they want this work, “this holy work,” as Aubrey calls it, to continue. In honor of June being national PRIDE month and our ongoing work for all to be welcome, please consider making a gift of $100 or an amount meaningful to you to continue your support.

It is because of your gifts, support, and prayers we are able to move our work forward.

Thank you!

Cheryl Stuart Mike Crandall

Co-Chairs, Board of Directors
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Plenty of Christians support marriage equality

bishop dave OR marraigeBy Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke
Originally printed in The Oregonian

It just ain't so!

Public opinion polls suggest that people see Christians as anti-homosexual, closed minded and legalistic. Some may be. Like any other group, one shouldn't assume Christians are all the same. At the same time, many of us cringe under such a characterization. 

My church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., has always and unwaveringly supported civil rights for all people. This includes individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

This past weekend, our Assembly of Oregon congregations overwhelmingly affirmed the freedom to marry for same-gender couples in Oregon. Thank you, Judge McShane, for doing the right thing. Same-gender couples, their children and their families deserve the same protections, support and respect that everybody else receives. There can be no question about this.

While some complain that allowing same-gender couples to marry will weaken or destroy the institution of marriage I would have to say exactly the opposite. My personal experience in the church is that same-gender couples who come to us for marriage know exactly what they are doing - and why. Far from destroying it, same-gender couples may actually save the institution of marriage! Many such couples I know have long and stable relationships which they want to make fully legal, fully accountable, and which they recognize as a gift and grace from God. What's not to love about that?

Again, though, Christians are not all the same. Now that marriage is legal for same-gender couples in Oregon, it doesn't mean that every Lutheran church will choose to officiate at same-gender weddings. We are different, and mutual respect is a core value for us. We live peacefully with our own internal diversity.

We do not, however, live peacefully with discrimination. Religious freedom means that clergy and congregations may make decisions about whom to marry.  A government official or business, however, does not. Religious freedoms are important. So are basic civil rights. We mustn't confuse the two.

So it is that our recent Assembly of Oregon Lutherans also passed a resolution "to stand in opposition to any and all attempts to legalize discrimination in the name of religious freedom." We were referring here to the recently proposed Oregon Family initiative IP 52 - "Exempts religious opposition to same sex marriage/civil union/domestic partnership from penalties for discrimination."

Lutheran pastors choose whom they will or won't marry. Lutheran bakers, however, knead bread for all the world. Lutheran gardeners care for anybody's lawn. Christians are called to serve their neighbor, whoever they are. In the public realm, Christians do not pick and choose.  It is our privilege, and God's glory, that we serve any and all as if they were Christ himself.

I can't speak for all Christians everywhere. However, I will speak for the church in which I am a bishop. Discrimination is wrong.  Equality under the law is essential. Freedom to marry in Oregon is the right thing to do.  We rejoice.

Dave Brauer-Rieke, of Milwaukie, is bishop of the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Thrivent’s Heart Does Not Follow its Treasure

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ReconcilingWorks’ Statement on Thrivent Financial’s New Policies in Member-Outreach Programs

Following Thrivent Financial’s announcement in early February about its new “neutrality policy” for its outreach programs to its members, the leaders of ReconcilingWorks and our movement partner, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, met with some of the top management staff at Thrivent at its Minneapolis, Minnesota, office. Unfortunately, that meeting did not bring a resolution to the situation.

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North Carolina couple and RIC Lutheran Pastor join landmark lawsuit to protect First Amendment rights of clergy

NC UCC Lawsuit web

BREAKING NEWS: Today a Lutheran couple and their Pastor joined a landmark lawsuit to protect First Amendment rights of North Carolina clergy. 

According to the Campaign for Southern Equality, this lawsuit, filed in a Federal District Court by the United Church of Christ, is the first such case brought by a national religious denomination challenging a state’s marriage laws. 

The UCC is joined by a Lutheran pastor, a rabbi, two Unitarian-Universalist ministers and a Baptist pastor, as well as by several same-gender couples. They said that North Carolina’s marriage law “represents an unlawful government intervention into the internal structure and practices of plaintiffs’ religions.” 

One of those couples, Joanne and Cathy, both attend Reconciling in Christ congregation, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in Charlotte, where they have been members for approximately 25 years. 

“Our church family is like family to us. They have watched, loved and supported our children and our relationship throughout our lives. Pastor Nancy is an amazing pastor and person with whom we have great respect and love," Cathy and Joanne said in a statement. 

"Honestly, we can’t imagine anyone else officiating our legal marriage. While others may choose to go to another state to be legally married, we cannot imagine being married without the presence of our faith community and our Pastor officiating the ceremony.”

Nancy Cathy JoanneThe Rev. Nancy Kraft, Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC, stands with Cathy Fry and Joanne Marinaro at the press conference Monday morning.

The Rev. Nancy KraftThe Rev. Nancy Kraft

“Can anyone tell me how this is not a violation of our freedom to practice our religion in a way that is consistent with our beliefs? Of course I would never tell another pastor or congregation that they must marry same gender couples if doing so went against their deeply held beliefs." Pastor Nancy writes on her blog.

"But why is it okay for those who disagree with the religious beliefs of my faith community to decide how we may or may not be able to practice those beliefs?”

They have been in a committed relationship since June 15, 1986, and live together in a home in Huntersville, N.C. that they built in 1988. Cathy and Joanne have two children: Kaley, who graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina – Asheville in 2013, and Joseph, who is currently in his second semester at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. 

   

Click the donate button below to support our work creating more safe spaces like Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in the South.

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International Programs Committee Sends Letter to World Bank President

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Last week the World Bank’s Spring Meetings drew to a close. It has been less than a month since the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan to Uganda in light of the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act. In a powerful op-ed announcing the delayed loan, Bank President Dr. Jim Kim spoke out against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

ReconcilingWorks' Director of International Programs, Philip Moeller, sent Dr. Kim a letter last month in anticipation of this meeting. The text is available here below.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President
The World Bank
Office of the President
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, D.C., 20433

Re:  Pulling of Uganda Health Project for Review

Dear President Kim:

Since 1991 I have served as an institutional development consultant to the World Bank, mainly in the infrastructure sector and increasingly working with political economy and social assessment.  Mid-way through this time frame I joined GLOBE and also became the Director of International Programs for ReconcilingWorks, formerly known as Lutherans Concerned/North America.  It is from the perspective of all three "lenses" that I write this letter.

I have been especially pleased to see GLOBE move from a concern for LGBT staff/spousal rights to a consideration of access for the LGBT community to client activities supported by the World Bank, and twice in the last two years I have helped organized workshops on LGBT issues respectively for Spring and Fall bi-annual meetings.  I was especially pleased to be at a supplemental workshop when you took the microphone and gave your support of LGBT advocacy in the context of the development work of the World Bank, saying that "when one goes down the road of social justice one does not go half way.”

Our organization has been especially concerned with the deteriorating situation In Uganda and the implications of the passage of negative legislation in Uganda that would further marginalize and restrict the participation of the LGBT community in health services and a wide range of other services.  We were especially pleased to learn of your decision to pull for review the proposed additional financing for the Uganda Health Project.  This act certainly reflects your previous statement on not going half way down the road of social justice.

We understand the dedication of the World Bank to due process and best practice and know that this will be applied to the review process for the additional financing.  Within that frame we note that there was no commentary on social issues in the original request for additional financing.  We are sure that any further consider of the request would require such discussion.

Along with that discussion we understand that the review would include an assessment of how the recent legislation would affect access to the benefits of the project by the LGBT community.  Clearly consideration must also be given to the impact of this legislation on the staff of the World Bank and any local staff employed under the project in terms of service provision to the LGBT community.  The review would also seem to offer the opportunity to consider sensitivity training for health personnel in general on the issue of health service provision for the LGBT community.

In passing we would also note the recently completed study of the “Cost of Homophobia” for development.  The association of the World Bank with Nordic Support with this study is most commendable, timely, and relevant.  It should be a foundation stone for a new threshold to the portal for LGBT inclusivity.  We applaud this substantive addition to social realism.  We would also note our support for specific targeting of LGBT inclusion in the revision underway of the safeguards of the World Bank.

We want to communicate our support for your decision to call for this review.  We would also underline the fact that there are such faith-based organizations as ours that commend this action and seek full access for the LGBT community in the development process.  This is the essence of a comprehensive base to development.  If any are marginalized on any basis we all are marginalized.  If there are marginalized peoples, poverty cannot be eliminated.

Again, we thank you for your walk along the road of social justice.

Sincerely, 

Philip W. Moeller. PhD.

Director of International Programs, ReconcilingWorks

After more than a decade, the World Bank is now reviewing its safeguard process as a whole, which has led to an opportunity for LGBT to propose a new safeguard that identifies and mitigates potential negative impacts of Bank projects on LGBT individuals, like keeping LGBT families together when displaced by infrastructure improvements. Such a safeguard would make it mandatory for Bank projects to be assessed on their impact on LGBT communities in the region the projects are implemented. 

In many countries across the world, the World Bank funds projects in the health, poverty alleviation, and refugee assistance sectors. Due to laws that criminalize or don’t recognize LGBT citizens, such projects are nearly impossible be accessed by these vulnerable populations. The motto of the World Bank is to “end poverty,” and in a great discussion activists pointed out that the face of poverty are the sexual minorities, the excluded classes, and that lack of equal opportunity to work, to gain access to education, health services, and monetary support results in marginalizing the LGBT community even further. 

Originally reported by Tushar M, HRC Global Engagement Fellow "Spring for Global LGBT Rights: World Bank Spring Meeting Comes to an End"